Respected writers Tim Schafer and Erik Wolpaw told PAX Prime 2012 audiences that games which favour player agency over directed narrative may be the future of the entire medium.
As reported by Kotaku, Portal 2 writer Wolpaw joked that he might quit his writing job over the phenomenal success of sandbox games like Minecraft and Day Z.
“Can you have an authored story in that situation? It gets tough. I look at stories coming out of Minecraft or something like DayZ, and honestly it makes me just despair,” he said.
“If I had any guts or honor, I’d leave the industry. It seems like it’s the promise of games. It’s like, ‘I have full agency. Total, total agency.’”
After assuring the room that he was kidding, Wolpaw said there will always be a place for narrative-driven games, but it won’t be as central as it is now and was in the past.
“At some point, you’re going to go into the kinda ‘artisan cheese-maker’ model. Like Tim [Schafer]. You’re going to be making these games that directly appeal to a [specific audience]. It may not be one of these 20 million dollar massive productions,” he explained.
Double Fine boss and Psychonauts writer Schafer seemed to agree.
“I think [that kind of player-driven experience] is maybe the promise of games. But not everybody wants the same thing from games. There are definitely people who like something carefully crafted for them, cheese or games,” he said.
Minecraft has no story and no definite goals, and has sold over 7 million copies on PC and 3.6 million copies on Xbox 360. Day Z takes a similar approach, throwing players down with hazards and tools and letting them fool around; it has over 1 million registered players and is on its way to commercial release.